Nine years ago this week, my husband and I traveled to China and welcomed our youngest daughter to our lives.
Since then, nothing in our world has been the same.
Greens are greener. Candy is sweeter. Pinks are pinker. The sun is brighter.
Her existence is living proof that the more love you give, the more you have. I often tell people that she naturally is the happiest human I’ve ever known. Her laughter, song and smile bless us every day.
Through the years, she and I have had many conversations of the hows and whys she came into our lives and hearts. At age 9, she will readily explain to anyone who listens about China’s one-child-per-family policy. Not only does she need to talk about her adoption process, but she likes doing so.
Of the many intangibles and unknowns of her adoption story, China’s one-child policy is the one sure thing—what isn’t sure is anything related to her biological family. We have no idea what circumstances led her mother and/or father to decide to part ways with their daughter. We don’t know if she has siblings. We don’t know anything for certain about these mystery people who gave our family so much.
As things stand now, there is no means for us to ever know.
Of course, that could change eventually.
Just ask an adult adopted American whose biological mother placed him or her for adoption decades ago. Even domestic adoptions were closed back then with no way for anyone to get any information or make contact with their biological relations.
Our daughter’s so-called “Gotcha Day,” happens to coincide with Adoption Awareness Month. In an effort educate more people about the possibilities of adoption, Paula Milner, Director of Catholic Social Services, has an important message to local birth mothers and adoptees — especially those interested in reconnecting that they can contact their agencies to start the process of getting their records.
“We want people to know that they can contact us,” Milner said. “There are a few out there who still don’t want the information out, but if either side would want to search, we encourage them to do so.”
Milner told me that the first step is for adoptees and birth mothers in Louisiana to contact the Voluntary Registry in Baton Rouge. It is specifically set up to open lines of communication for closed adoptions from previous years. Adoptees, birth mothers and fathers and siblings should call (800) 259-2456 for more information. Most states have a similar registry.
Locally, Catholic Social Services is available to assist anyone who has used the agency at any time. Call Milner at 337-261-5654 or go to www.adoptionlafayette.org. However, if you’re reading this from afar, you should contact an adoption agency in your area to start your trek.
Milner understands the importance of keeping lines of communication open in adoption.
“We’re a part of making families, and seeing the light in couples who want a child,” she said. “It’s a two-edged sword. The other side is seeing the pain that the birth mother goes through. Even though that’s a sad part of the job, we do believe that we are there for them. Once the adoption is done, we don’t just shut the door and say we’re done with you. We’re there for them for a lifetime.”
Adoption and adoption services are alive and well in Acadiana. Last year, the Lafayette Catholic Social Services office alone assisted with 7 female reunions and four male reunions.
“We do counseling before they meet to make sure their expectations are within normal range,” Milner said.
They also counseled with 106 birth moms, birth fathers and birth families. Additionally, they had 157 orientation sessions for domestic adoptions and three international placements.
“We want to dispel the myth that a couple adopts a baby and thinks, ‘This is our baby and that’s the end of that.’ There are other people involved,” Milner said. “The child grows up with questions — who am I? It’s a lifelong process. Situations change. Needs change. Issues change. It matters that they get the counseling. They can get reunions if they were adopted years ago, and we work to make it work in everyone’s best interest.”
From my perspective in the adoption circle, I understand the value reconnections with biological families offer. Even though my youngest daughter is and will always be my daughter, getting answers and explanations to those questions that never go away would, at some point, be good for our heads and hearts.